September 05, 2016

Day One in London

I’m back from England and what an amazing trip. We spent a week touring the charming villages and beautiful scenery of the West Country, plus another twelve days exploring the many sights in and near London. I took 4,000 pictures and there’s a lot to tell you so let's start from the beginning, in London.

The London Eye

Westminster Abbey, the site of royal coronations, weddings and funerals since 1066, was only a short walk from our hotel on Vincent Square.

Great West Door of Westminster Abbey

The abbey’s website recently introduced online ticket sales so we didn’t waste valuable time standing in a queue. To maintain the sacred atmosphere of this historic church, photography is not permitted.

Abbey Entrance at the Great North Door

The abbey was kind enough to grant me permission to share some of the photos from their online Picture Gallery, like the Grave of the Unknown Warrior where Kate Middleton's bridal bouquet was laid following her marriage to Prince William.

The Nave of Westminster Abbey and Grave of the Unknown Warrior
Photo: Dean and Chapter of Westminster

The beautiful fan-vaulted ceiling of King Henry VII's Lady Chapel.

Henry VII's Lady Chapel
Photo: Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Poets' Corner with memorials to great writers such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

Poets' Corner
Photo: Dean and Chapter of Westminster

And the Coronation Chair which has been used in the crowning of monarchs since 1308. The chair once held the Stone of Scone, which King Edward I brought from Scotland. The Stone was returned to Edinburgh Castle 700 years later but will return to Westminster Abbey for future coronations.

The Coronation Chair
Photo: Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Nearby Parliament Square has statues of some great leaders of the twentieth century, including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.

Parliament Square and Big Ben

Statue of Mahahma Gandhi

Statue of Nelson Mandela

Statue of Winston Churchill

We escaped the crowds on Parliament Square to walk along the tree-lined Victoria EmbankmentA gateway marks the position of the north bank of the River Thames before the building of the Embankment in 1862.

Gateway on the Victoria Embankment

Cleopatra’s Needle is an Egyptian obelisk presented to Britain in 1819. Two sphinxes and Egyptian-themed benches were added to the Embankment by architect George Vulliamy, who was also responsible for the sturgeon (or dolphin) lamp posts lining both sides of the Thames.

Cleopatra's Needle on the Victoria Embankment

The Egyptian Obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle

Victoria Embankment Sphinx

A Sphinx Bench

Sturgeon Lamp Post

Further along the Embankment, Somerset House is home to the Courtauld Gallery. In addition to its Medieval and Renaissance works, this small gallery has a wonderful collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, including pieces by Monet, Manet and Van Gogh.

Fountains in the Somerset House Courtyard

Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear, Vincent Van Gogh
Courtauld Gallery

After the Courtauld we stopped at the popular Twinings tea shop on the Strand. The shop first opened as a tea room in 1706 and now includes a small museum and tasting counter.

Twinings on the Strand

So far we'd spent our time in the City of Westminster. Once we passed the Temple Bar Memorial we'd entered the original City of London, or simply ‘The City’.

Temple Bar Memorial

The Dragon of the City of London

Prince Henry's Room is one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire of London that ravaged the city 350 years ago.

Prince Henry's Room

The Monument to the Great Fire commemorates the inferno that was finally extinguished on this day, September 5, in the year 1666. The column was erected 61 metres from the spot where the fire began in a bakery on Pudding Lane on September 2.

Monument to the Great Fire

Pudding Lane

Bake Shop Commemorative Plaque

A series of art installations sprung up across London this summer to celebrate the release of the movie, The BFG, as well as the one hundredth birthday of author Roald Dahl. Fifty BFG Dream Jars were created to illustrate the dreams of celebrities and artists. Most were then auctioned off to support Save the Children. Jenny Packham's jar, A Stitch in Time Saves Nine, was placed near the base of The Monument.

Jenny Packham's BFG Dream Jar:
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Leadenhall Market is a lovely covered market that appeared in the Harry Potter films as Diagon Alley. When we arrived late on a Friday afternoon, the Victorian passageways were crowded with pub patrons (most likely Muggles!) kicking off their weekend with a pint.

Leadenhall Market

Pubbing at the Lamb Tavern

Rather than battling the evening rush hour we dined at Jamie's Italian, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant on Threadneedle Street. While studying the menu we enjoyed a free glass of Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine, courtesy of a summer promotion with American Express.

Jamie's Italian, Threadneedle Street

I loved the Tomato Crostata, similar to bruschetta on a flaky crust with heritage tomatoes, lovage pesto, caprino cheese and balsamic vinegar. The Prawn Risotto with Argentine prawns, courgette and parsley was a unique take on the popular dish and, along with the friendly service, made for a wonderful first evening in London.

Tomato Crostata

Prawn Risotto

My Tip for the Day:
London can be expensive so check restaurant web sites for special offers and promotions.


  1. As always, yur photos are fantastic. I'm going to head over to your Pinterest account.

  2. Thanks so much, Denise. I only have a few London photos on Pinterest right now, from my first trip a few years ago, but I'll be adding many, many more. I'll look for you there too.


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